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20 June 1997 —
20 July 1997

Chiara Corbelletto:
Essenza and Affinita

Chiara Corbelletto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997 (installation view).
Chiara Corbelletto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997 (installation view).
Chiara Corbelletto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997 (installation view).
Chiara Corbelletto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997 (installation view).
Chiara Corbelletto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997 (detail).
Chiara Corballetto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997 (installation view).
Chiara Corballetto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997 (installation view).


This installation is part of a new series that explores the realm of lightness. Usually, the artist examines density and solidity - ‘All duality appears to me mysterious and ambiguous and often I have considered in my work the dual notion of rational and organic. This relationship is the core subject of the exhibition, together with other investigations about space perception and definition.’

It is a large work, occupying visually most of the central space and extending to the enclosing wall as shadows. The elements taking part are a light, white, repeated module, like a grid, and a number of large loops of double conic biological shapes. Both parties are white and composed of repeated modules to lend rhythm to the space. The overall feeling is of affinity and lightness, pursuing compatibility within duality. The reasons are aesthetic as well as symbolic.

By 1987, after working as an art restorer for six years, Corbelletto wanted to start making her own art. Although she had not made sculpture since her art school days, Corbelletto accepted the challenge of tackling a large block of Hinuera stone at the 1988 stone carving symposium at Auckland’s Western Springs. Her first effort, a powerful 2-metre-high head in a style which resembled art deco, attracted critical interest. Her works in the 1989 and 1990 symposia were also well received. In 1989 she began working on small stone pieces, using polystyrene coated with a skin of tech-crete. This process allowed freedom in the way surfaces were finished. In some pieces the effect was of smooth, much-handled stone; other surfaces were like porous sandstone. Since 1992 the artist has worked mainly with creamy, granular Oamaru stone. This will take detail only to a certain degree, and in recent years Corbelletto has pushed it as far as she can.

Corbelletto’s work has progressed through three main groups, but all are concerned with stillness, silence and reference. The earliest pieces, mostly small, had a strong frontal presence and featured smooth, rounded columns and lintels, forming an entrance. They reminded one of a spiritual essence that arises when stepping into an old tomb or foreign place of worship. The major work of the series was the large Know yourself: Rite of Passage, 1991.

The second category of works had an architectural quality, derived form Corbelletto’s studies in that discipline. Mostly tall and thin, they were either talismans or shrines which held bowls or other containers. The firm, box structure of the shrines contrasted with the rounded forms of the containers and the loose sand, pebbles or other objects which they held. Other work in the architectural category included elegant, vertical pieces which look back to the Italian futurist architect Sant Elia.

The third group of sculptures is the one that has carried over to the present. It includes bowls and pieces with organic shapes, such as corals, shells, gourds and seed pods. Several such pieces make up one work - a ‘dialogue between forms’. They invite touching, lifting and careful positioning, and they produce sensuous shadows in oblique light. They are natural forms harboring spiritual mysteries, infused with a sense of stillness and the aura of ritual.


Chiara Corbelletto: Essenza and Affinita, 1997, exhibition card

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